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Is adaptability the new intelligence?

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Armed with new insights and learnings around flexible and remote work, Purpose led business and people focussed leadership, what we return to will be a far cry from ‘business as usual’. Are you ready for the next wave of change?

The Adversity Quotient

What our time in isolation has demonstrated more than anything is the importance of adaptability. Those with the ability to shift and adapt to a dynamic and sometimes unpredictable working world, will be best equipped to succeed no matter what the future holds. For businesses looking to get the most from their people, Intelligence (IQ) and Emotional intelligence (EQ) will only get them so far. The Adversity Quotient (AQ) – which is one’s ability to change (or be changed) to fit new circumstances – has fast become the skill of the century, crucial not only for the ongoing success of business leaders, but for any employee today.

So as we navigate the new three step plan to get life and the economy back on track, how can organisations build and harness adaptability to fuel their (ever changing) business continuity strategy? Here are three steps of our own to help you develop your AQ – and your peoples as well.

1. Be curious and attached to nothing

For executives and employees alike, there first needs to be a willingness to be flexible, agile and adaptable to change. Instead of holding onto fixed conditions and mindsets, or getting frustrated by constant change, there is an opportunity here to become more curious. This will also help you let go of your biases and challenge your learned behaviours

Ask different questions: You won’t find new results by asking the same questions. The first step to greater adaptability is tapping into that curiosity, to seek out new knowledge and ask questions that take you into unexplored territory.
“What am I missing?” 

“How would our competitors challenge this idea?”

“What if we had to do it differently?”

Quit Googling everything: The internet is a compelling global resource, but it can also be a barrier to applied learning and information sharing. Instead, call a co-worker and have a conversation with them. Engage in thoughtful questions, even if they seem uncomfortable for you. The secret to becoming adaptable in this instance, is to step past the voices of your own ego, the external world and the media.

Trust your instincts and intuition: Instinct and intuition always leads to discovery, whereas our conscious thoughts and habits repeat and strengthen the old. Harness adaptability with the following equation: “Intention + Belief + Action = Where change happens.” You will be amazed what new roadmaps can be revealed when you trust the voice of intuition, believe in it and most importantly of all – take action!

2. Flex your courage

Like any behaviour, harnessing adaptability takes practise, and that means taking on new and unfamiliar challenges. Now is the perfect time to see what’s possible beyond your comfort zones – and flex your courage!

Crystallise your ‘Why?’: Whether you’re in familiar or uncharted territory, being clear on the WHY of it all will always guide you forward. When you are clear on your highest purpose, the rest comes naturally. 

Befriend your inner-critic: The voice of fear may be louder than ever at present, but that voice is not your adversary. Acknowledging that it is trying to keep you safe, and understanding when and how to listen to that voice will reclaim the power it has over you. With persistence, you can tame fear to motivate you, and push you to new heights in your adaptability.

Re-frame failure: Instead of interpreting failure as an inadequacy or negligence on your part, view it as a necessary step towards success. Thomas Edison recorded over 1200 failures in his quest to create the lightbulb. Over 1200 necessary steps towards success! (And if he’d given up after the first 100? You’d probably be scrolling through this article in the dark.)

3. Break the process

Right now, we’re all invited to view the world with a new pair of eyes free from the constraints of ‘the process’ as it currently stands.
These are some recommendations to add more zest, colour and creativity to your day to day and help you break away from the usual process:

Pick small projects: Transformation doesn’t have to happen all at once. Small-scale innovation can move quickly, with little overwhelm and easy buy-in from peers and partners. This is an effective way to reinforce a culture of adaptability and innovation for future projects.

Wear someone else hat: Finding new ideas sometimes means looking outside yourself. Give your creativity a fresh coat of paint and come at the problem from a variety of different lenses. How would a PR guru tackle this problem? Or a different company with a strong creative voice. What ideas could pivot your business? Or get you fired? Other perspectives are always helpful – so start with a new lens, then bring in a colleague to help build and shape your ideas.

Ban something: Freedom can be a limiting thing and some of the greatest innovation comes from working creatively within the rules and restrictions. As an exercise, start banning things and exploring the implications. It could be anything from a popular process, platform or shortcut, to the use of certain words like ‘no’. Use with caution: the idea here is to spark new thoughts around old ways of doing things.

You must be shapeless, formless, like water- Bruce Lee

The future is fluid, and those best equipped to succeed will need to be ready to adapt to whatever comes next. For leaders, now is the time to be the student, not the teacher. By focussing your attention on your own resilience and adaptability now, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running and start developing the adaptability of your people and your organisation. What comes next is anyone’s guess. But with the right AQ, you’ll be ready for anything. If you want to chat more about adaptability, resilience or leadership effectiveness, please get in touch at hello@weareunity.com

May 18, 2020, We Are Unity